Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sarah Palin: Obama's New Enemy

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The attempt by the Obama administration to make Rush Limbaugh an enemy of the people, in the style of 1984's Emmanuel Goldstein has failed. So, casting around for a new devil to excite their base with, the Obama people have hit on Sarah Palin.

Sarah Palin, the current governor of Alaska and former candidate for Vice President, created considerable excitement for the McCain campaign. She was electric on the stump, bringing huge audiences to her feet with stem winder speeches. She was solidly conservative, butSarah Palin: Obama's New Enemy of the People with a reformist slant. And, very important, she was a telegenic, attractive woman.

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Nevertheless, according to the Washington Post's Plum Line, Democratic strategists think she's a good fit to rile up the Democratic base.

"James Carville, a key architect of the Limbaugh strategy, says Dems will be seeking to elevate Palin more and more, because she's "an identifiable person who has a hook," unlike GOP leaders like Eric Cantor and Mitch McConnell.

"'Her name conjures up all kinds of reactions in people's minds,' Carville told me, adding that her association with the campaign will be used to portray the GOP as hidebound and to alienate moderates. 'She's an uncomfortable figure for a lot of Republicans,' Carville says. 'They want to move beyond her. We like her.'

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"'Luckily, she seems to present us with an opportunity every few days,' added a senior Dem strategist. 'You could say it's a turkey shoot.'"

The Democrats may have decided that the campaign against Rush Limbaugh backfired because Rush has a rather large megaphone in the form of his radio show and was able to respond to attacks. The publicity engendered by the attacks only served to swell Rush Limbaugh audience, finally making the Democratic attacks seem ridiculous.

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Sarah Palin, on the other hand, has been spending the aftermath of the election quietly attending to state business in Alaska and weighing options for either 2010 (a Senate run) and/or 2012 (a run for the Presidency.) She won't be able to respond to a coordinated smear campaign, goes the reasoning, as effectively as Rush Limbaugh.

The problem with attacking Sarah Palin is the same as attacks launched thirty years ago against Ronald Reagan in advance of the 1980 election. The portrayal of Sarah Palin as some kind of mad right winger (and stupid to boot) is likely toSarah Palin: Obama's New Enemy of the People be at variance with reality. Liberals, when they attack conservatives, tend to stick to their personal stereotypes. Sexist, racist, homophobe, heartless, and stupid. Sarah Palin is smart and personable, which is the real reason she has become a target.

Only in this case, it is the attackers who run the risk of seeming sexist. Chris Matthews, the MSNBC screamer, who apparently has a school girl crush on Barack Obama (remember the "thrill up my leg" remark), has already crossed that line. Chris Matthews has already called Sarah Palin "McCain's mail order bride."

All that serves is to rally women, even liberal women, to Sarah Palin's defense. A lot of women, especially professional women, have stories of put downs by insecure men who are jealous of their accomplishments. If Carville et al go after Sarah Palin with too much enthusiasm, women will see themselves in Sarah Palin and will react accordingly.

The really big problem is that the strategy of picking a devil to get people to hate is only a distraction from President Obama's accumulating problems. Calling Rush Limbaugh or Sarah Palin names is hardly going to make those problems go away. Only addressing the problems will make those problems go away.

Unfortunately, for a purveyor of attack dog politics like James Carville, every problem seems to require an attack dog approach. It worked to a certain extent for Bill Clinton after the Gingrich revolution. But while Clinton's minions were making Newt Gingrich and Bob Dole the devil, Clinton had moved hard to starboard toward the center. Barack Obama persists in tacking to port. That's why the strategy will not work this time. In fact, it might make Sarah Palin so popular that it will make her President.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Can Obama Regulate Trust in Banks

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According to the Seattle Times, on March 22, 2009, the parent company for Washington Mutual Bank sued the FDIC for its actions in selling their assets to JP Morgan Chase. Then JP Morgan Stanley Chase immediately countersued both the parent company for Washington Mutual and the of America FDIC in an effort to protect their $1.9 billion purchase.

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Meanwhile, according to CNBC, President Obama met with the heads of the banking industry to discuss the overhaul of the United States Financial institutes Friday. Does this stuff make your stomach queasy and head spin? Do you really think these guys care about us?

My familiarity with WA Mutual is based on two different incidents: one that happened to a friend and one that happened to my husband and me. Both incidents taught good lessons about dealing with your money.

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My friend had a sum of money left over from the sale of her home she received as part of her divorce decree. She neared retirement and wanted a nest egg to protect her in her elderly years to augment her social security payments. She didn't really know much about investment or money; she just knew she wanted it saved. She went to her local banker, WA Mutual, and put her trust in them to keep her money safe. They convinced her that they could invest her money for her and give her a small return on her money. She believed them. Every month they sent her a statement. Every month she had less money than before. She went in to talk with them. They told her the loss was temporary and that in the long term her money would grow. She believed them. Her statements continued to show losses. She went back and asked, "I thought you were keeping my money safe. What's going on? Shouldn't I take my money out?" Again the people at Washington Mutual convinced her that her money was safe with them. Eventually she lost it all.

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After hearing my friend's tale of woe, I had tons of questions that she couldn't answer and I suppose to her it didn't matter anymore. To me it mattered because I wondered about someone that was providing bad guidance to someone and why that could continue.

The second incident occurred when I expressed concern about having my money in the same investment bank that my husband had his in. I, too, didn't feel very confident about making my own purchases in the stock market and wanted to have some advice. My husband and I went to WA Mutual to find out about their investment service.

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The first thing we found out was that the services WA Mutual offered cost 300% more than Charles Schwab or other online investment brokers. The second thing we found out was that they only offered a few suggested mutual funds that they managed. The third thing we found out was that they couldn't provide any data or research about other investments.

The lessons I learned from these two incidents amounts to the following:

1) If you care about your money, don't trust someone else to make the decisions.

2) If someone offers a service that doesn't seem like a service, trust your instincts, it probably isn't.

3) If someone offers a service that doesn't consider your own needs, but they sound good because they look slick and wealthy and talk lots about money, chances are that the do know about money and want to make it for themselves, not for you.

4) If you aren't sure that a service is in your interest, look around for alternatives. It is in your best interest to consider a different plan and to pay attention to your gains and losses. At a minimum, a US Savings Bond will keep the amount you started with (your principle) intact and the inflation adjusted US Savings Bonds will protect you against losses due to inflation. Make sure that any alternative delivers better results.

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When President Obama's plan discusses "businesses that are too big to lose" they are thinking about what banks are supposed to be doing—working to provide their customers with services. It seems to me that companies who are more interested in making money for their business by buying and selling more and more banks rather than making a customer's money return interest isn't a company that I want to do business with. I expect I am not alone in thinking this way. I'm not sure that President Obama can convince bankers to just be a bank. And I'm really sure that getting lawyers involved in a big brangling lawsuit will not help former Washington Mutual customers.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Three Stooges

The Three Stooges movie shorts are one of the most iconic, and perhaps violent, comedy routines of their time. Moe, Larry and Curley beat each other up and took down everything else in their path, turning the Three Stooges into comedy legends. But the Three Stooges were always missing something - a modern movie update. But it would appear that the Three Stooges are finally joining the parade of remakes and getting set for the modern world. However, reports are out that the new Three Stooges may not be what people expect.

The Farrelly Brothers are trying to get a new Three Stooges movie made. The film would reportedly not be a biopic of the real life Three Stooges and their behind-the-scenes antics, but rather be like an old Three Stooges short - stretched out by two hours.

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The Farrelly Brothers already seem to have their Three Stooges in mind, with at least one of them stepping way out on a limb. But combined, these prospective Three Stooges have three Oscars among them.

Sean Penn was reported yesterday to be in negotiations to play Three Stooges member Larry. Penn already shocked people enough by actually smiling in Milk, for which he won his second Oscar. Now Penn may shock more people by actually doing comedy, a genre he seemed to forget about after Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

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The second new Stooge is more used to comedy. Jim Carrey will play, of all Stooges, Curley, if things go well. Carrey, who already worked with the Farrelly Brothers on Dumb and Dumber and Me, Myself and Irene, would have to gain a lot of weight to play Curley.

The final Stooge in line would be Benicio Del Toro, who would play the abusive Stooge leader, Moe. Del Toro has made people laugh before, most notably in his unintelligible rambling in The Usual Suspects, but like Penn, has made his bones mainly on drama.

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The Three Stooges would have an unusual amount of pedigree with this new version - though whether Penn and del Toro have that kind of wackiness in them, and whether Carrey still has it without being grating, is the key question. The Farrelly Brothers have not been at their Dumb and Dumber/Something About Mary heights in a while, either.

Previously, the Three Stooges got updated in a made-for-TV movie about their lives for ABC, starring a pre-Shield Michael Chiklis. This movie version would be on track for a fall 2010 release if negotiations succeed.

Friday, March 20, 2009

AIG Bailout Disaster


The latest saga of this ongoing financial debacle centers around $165 million of American International Group (AIG) bonuses paid out to the very same executives that led the flailing insurer down the road towards ultimate collapse.

The shenanigans have further incited populist outrage directed at a crumbling, free-wheeling culture that has been unceremoniously dismissed as a laissez-faire sham. Recent developments have spiraled out of control, promulgating a circus like dog and pony show of finger pointing, death threats, and open calls for the resignation of the Secretary of the U.S. Treasury.

AIG is a Disaster

The leading insurer at one point featured a market capitalization of over $100 billion and served as a prominent fixture of the Dow Jones Industrial Average. In summary, American International Group is a dominant player within all lines of insurance - particularly products designed to protect trading partners from the risk of counter party failure. Proper collateral and reserves must be posted in order for any insurer to make good on these promises. Still, AIG upped the ante throughout the credit and real estate boom - aggressively embracing egregious levels of risk to maintain pace with competitors.

Then, the bottom fell out in 2008 - with the AIG Financial Products Division serving as a critical flash point of the ensuing storm.


The viscous cycle of forced deleveraging arrived part in parcel with collapsing property values, minimal access to free capital, and credit rating agency downgrades that mandated AIG to put up even more collateral. Of course, AIG was then forced to liquidate assets at fire sale prices.

The September 15, 2008 bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers exacerbated the malaise as inquisitive onlookers questioned the valuations of distressed securities festering within AIG's books. The brutal developments threatened to crush AIG and set off yet another wave of chaos as this mega, multi-billion dollar insurer would have destroyed thousands of global banking institutions.

The U.S. Government proceeded to institute fiscal Marshall Law - effectively designating AIG as a "Too big to Fail" intermediary. $170 billion worth of Treasury Asset Relief Program (TARP) loans, guarantees, and veiled capital grant money was funneled from the tax payer to American International Group coffers via Treasury and the Federal Reserve Bank. The legendary bailout is rivaled only by the nationalization of our Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac government sponsored enterprises.

The brewing outrage has only grown with every headline depicting a ramshackle banking culture that apparently masterminded the demise of Main Street America. Politicians and economic policy wonks must delicately balance the act of saving AIG, preserving the sanctity of high finance, and commiserating with populist contempt.

Of course, the well-intentioned U.S. Capitol brain trust has only been further embarrassed by sordid details of $1,000,000 resort vacations, lavish gifts, and the recent $165 million worth of bonus payments to AIG brass financed by the taxpayer.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Natasha Richardson's Death is a Sad Lesson

The media continues to speculate about the sad and unfortunate death of actress Natasha Richardson, but one thing remains true. The life of an admired film and stage actress was cut way too short, and her family is now mourning her passing.

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The details of Richardson's accident remain sketchy, but Richardson took what looked like a minor fall at the end of a ski lesson, and even joked about it afterwards. However one hour after returning to her hotel in Montreal, she complained of a severe headache, and was taken to a hospital, then later transferred to Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, where she was ultimately pronounced brain dead.

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As a parent, this tragic story causes great concern and trepidation. All children are at risk when they don't wear a helmet. In most states, anyone riding a bicycle, skateboard or scooter is required by law to wear a helmet for protection. Yet too many children participate in these activities without a helmet due to peer pressure, and because it isn't "cool." I get so frustrated with parents who don't enforce the helmet rule. If we all banded together and insisted on helmets, then no child would be signaled out for being "uncool." So fellow parents, please join me in insisting that helmets be worn at all times.

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This tragedy also brings to light the seriousness of head injuries, and how they can be deceptive. More often than not, when a player receives a head injury during practice or a game, they are asked to "sit it out" for a few minutes. According to Jasper Shealy, a professor emeritus at the Rochester Institute of Technology, this practice is a mistake. "It takes more than a few minutes to know how serious the injury is. An initial concussion, neurologists are now learning, can make a second concussion more likely."

What can we learn from this information? From now on, if one of my children takes a hit in the head, he will be forced to remain inside until I am 100% sure that the injury doesn't warrant a trip to the doctor or emergency room. I also urge all coaches to be more vigilant about head injuries, and realize that they can be more serious than initially assessed.

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The fact that Richardson was not wearing a helmet may or may not have made a difference in the gravity of her injury. I'm sure that the details will come out later. In the meantime, now is the perfect time for parents to climb aboard the safety train, and follow the law. The consequences of not doing so can be catastrophic.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Britney Spears latest wardrobe malfunction

The Daily Mail reported earlier this week on Britney Spears' near wardrobe malfunction at a concert in Atlanta, Georgia, complete with Brit in a skin tight, golden Viking outfit with her breasts nearly making an appearance at the concert. Then, at her Circus concert, Florida, Britney Spears suffered a wardrobe malfunction, evidenced by a hot mic moment when she was caught mentioning a crude word for her female anatomy hanging out as she went below stage to change her ensemble for the next act. What makes the hot mic moment ironically memorable is that Britney has been photographed before sans underwear and didn't seem too embarrassed by that wardrobe malfunction gaffe. Perhaps Britney Spears has grown up after all.
Britney Spears' Circus Concert Tour Dates: Is a wardrobe malfunction coming to a city near you?
After Britney Spears' wardrobe malfunction in Tampa, she is likely glad to head north to her date on her Circus tour in Uniondale, New York at the Nassau Coliseum on March 11. From there, Britney Spears will stay north and play two dates in Newark, New Jersey at Prudential Center on March 13 and 14, then head on up to Boston, Massachusetts to TD Banknorth Garden for a March 16 concert. There is no concert planned for March 17, so let's hope she is able to avoid the Irish pubs of Boston on St. Patty's Day.
Then it is off to Canada, specifically Toronto, Ontario for a double header on March 18 and 19 and then to Montreal, Quebec for her March 20 concert before heading back to the Nassau Coliseum for another concert on March 23 concert, the last concert stop before she appears at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. on March 24.
Since her Circus Tour opened on March 3, a good many concert reviewers have come out to describe Britney Spears' Circus as lackluster at best. Perhaps she hasn't hit her groove yet, and having wardrobe issues early in her tour can't help boost her confidence level as she tries to make a comeback. A reviewer in People Magazine said of her kickoff concert in her home state of Louisiana, "Don't call it a comeback quite yet." Her second Circus concert was in Atlanta, Georgia, site of the Viking diva near disaster. Some described her Circus performance as just that: a circus. What they saw was a lot of acrobatics from Britney, no close up shots on the big screen and some even wondered if she was actually singing or syncing instead. It looks like Britney Spears has gotten off to a shaky start, but perhaps by the time she appears at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., she will have hit her stride and perhaps solved her wardrobe malfunction problems.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Watchmen and Malin Akerman


Watchmen debuted to a number of midnight showing around the country,
and is showing that many people are indeed interested in seeing the
film. The Watchmen movie already made $4.6 million in its first
showing, marking it as a quick success. Not only that, but Watchmen
reviews are also a hot commodity now, as potential viewers try to
learn it is worth the full price of admission to witness what the
Watchmen characters can really do on the big screen.

By bringing in $4.6 million before it even opens to wide release on
Friday night, the number shows that there are going to be enough
interested parties to propel the film to #1 over the weekend.

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question remaining for everyone, is just how much money the movie can
make, and if enough people are interested in seeing the graphic novel
come to life. It's not always a predictable number by just gauging
what is made at midnight showings, but it can really shed some light
on whether people are willing to stand in line, or get exhausted at a
film that is almost three hours in its full presentation.

Already Watchmen reviews are criss-crossing the internet, and sites
like Rotten Tomatoes are benefiting greatly from the extra exposure a
film like this can generate. The Watchmen trailers have been out for
quite a while now, and as the movie got closer to being released, it
seems like they amplified just how many times it was shown during the


With around six different trailers presented in the end, the
producers sought to really spread out the demographics that could get
interested in the Watchmen characters, and it seems like so far they
are doing exactly what was needed.

The question now becomes whether the film will continue to garner box
office success, or if the first audiences decide they don't like it,
and thus pan it in their reviews of Watchmen. It's definitely a film
that is going to cover the wide spectrum of analysis. These reviews
take full advantage of Watchmen quotes, and as the film goes to
wide-release, word out mouth could become an important commodity to
the film. If the first audiences love it, that could spell great
success, but if they hate it, that is another ball of wax altogether.

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Friday, March 6, 2009

Tatiana del Toro

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As I do every Tuesday and Wednesday (and sometimes Thursday) night, my butt was planted on the sofa, and my eyes were glued on the television, as American Idol came on. I was particularly interested in the night's show, because the final group sang, that would fill out the nine that were Tatiana del Toro, that Hot Mess of a Drama Queen, is Back
For the most part, I was pleased. Although my boy, Nathaniel, didn't make it, two out of three people I'd voted for the night before got in -- Lil Rounds and Scott MacIntyre. That doesn't go to say that I was upset that Jorge made it in. He did an incredible job.

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I just grew to love Nathaniel.Then came the most thrilling part of the evening-- the announcement of the eight that would be in the wild card show. I agreed with a few of the choices, such as Ricky Braddy, Megan, and Anoop. However, the one thing I never wanted to see, happened. They chose Tatiana to be in the wild card. Oh dear god, have mercy on the souls of Randy, Kara, Paula, and Simon. I sat there, yelling "NO! NO! OH MY GOD! NO!" at the television over and over again.
Really, judges... really? Was this necessary? If you've been following Idol, I think some of you--scratch--most of you probably share the same opinion of Tatiana. If she doesn't screw up badly tonight and the judges don't kick her off, this could mean another week (I only say one, because no one can stand her) of Tatiana's tears, fake sincerity, and self-centeredness.

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Out of all the judges that voted her in, I am willing to venture Simon wasn't one of them. He's smarter than he looks. But really... Tatiana? Wow. Horrible choice. We all know who's going to win the whole competition-- Danny Gokey. However tonight, I think I want Ricky, Megan (maybe Matt,) and Annop to be the ones to fill out the top 12. Let the games begin!

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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Jimmy Kimmel and Bachelor

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Jimmy Kimmel is not known as someone who gets to take down celebrity
guests. Kimmel is better known for viral videos and dating Sarah
Silverman - and sometimes Ben Affleck - off and on. But Jimmy Kimmel
got to cut The Bachelor, Jason Mesnick, down to size after the Jimmy
Kimmel Cuts Down Jason Mesnick After Bachelor Twist Ending shocking
end to the latest Bachelor season. Jason Mesnick pulled a questionable
bait and switch, and Kimmel let him know it in his first post-Bachelor

At the end of The Bachelor, single father bachelor Jason Mesnick chose
Melissa Rycroft as the winning contestant. But in the subsequent
six-week reunion finale, Jason and Melissa were already no more. To
the shock of fans, Jason had already split up with Melissa, and was
seen at the reunion with fellow contestant and runner up Molly Malaney
instead. Jason had made his choice in the finale, then instantly
changed his mind to end the season.

So when Jason Mesnick faced the press, a.k.a. Jimmy Kimmel, he got
ribbed a little bit for his flip-flopping. Kimmel questioned Mesnick
over changing his mind, as Mesnick explained that Melissa Rycroft was
who he wanted - on that particular day of the finale.Kimmel made fun
of Mesnick's decision making process, asking if he still had the
number of the other Bachelor contestants, just in case. When Mesnick
hoped that he and Melissa would be friends, Kimmel laughed that they
wouldn't. He also suggested that since Mesnick has a history of
proposing on television, he should do it there if he ever pops the
question to Molly Malaney.

Kimmel is usually the first one to get reality show scoop from the
contestants on ABC shows. Dancing with the Stars practically co-runs
Jimmy Kimmel Live whenever it comes on, as Kimmel always has the
losing contestants and the winners appear on his show right out of the
gate. But until Dancing with the Stars comes back very soon, Kimmel
had to settle for the Bachelor, and talking about his two girlfriends.
The interview was just the final cap on another crazy night in reality
television land. The entire ordeal has already made people speculate
that the whole Jason-Molly-Melissa triangle was one scripted affair to
get The Bachelor some headlines at season's end. Reality shows are
usually scripted behind the scenes, but not usually to that kind of
obvious effect.

However, those who read US Weekly may not have been stunned, as their
last issue reported on Jason's quick dumping of Rycroft after the
finale. ABC may not have succeeded completely in containing the
surprises - though fortunately, US Weekly subscribers may not be Jimmy
Kimmel Cuts Down Jason Mesnick After Bachelor Twist Ending a key
Bachelor demographic.

Monday, March 2, 2009

American Idol

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American Idol is changing every time I watch it. When the latest season started I thought they would be bringing new raw unbeatable talent. As I watched and watched I thought I have heard better singers in a Karaoke bar. I am a big fan of American Idol. I have been watching it for years,since it originally aired. When the producers said they would be bringing in a new judge, I thought this was really going to shake things up. At first I liked Kara, then she started to turn me off. Getting back to the contestants, there were so many stories that touched us and made us cry during the original screenings. Now we are watching some of these people grow and try to fulfill their dreams. Now we are about to have a 3 day marathon if you will, to determine the final 12. I am excited, but I will say no one has wowed me yet.

Adam Lambert is in the Top 12 already and is 26 years old. If you don't know him by name then he is the one with the punk rocker hair. There is a lot about this guy that is good. I think that he has some real potential. Let's just hope he picks the right songs on the right nights. He has already been guaranteed a spot in the top 12 . It will be interesting to see how far he actually gets. Another standout contestant is Alexis Grace. She is a 21 year old mother who has a guaranteed spot in the top 12. If you do not recognize her by name then she is the cute blond with the pink streak in her hair. She is one that definitely stands out. Watch for her in the next rounds.

A total shocker to me is the contestant named Allison Iraheta, who has also nabbed a spot in the top 12. She is the girl with the all red hair. For a 16 year old I think she does more than pretty good and I am expecting her to wow me more and more. Jackie Tohn is a favorite of so many already. However, she is not a favorite of mine. While I give the girl credit for good singing, She just is not the type of singer I want as my next Idol. I just do not think she will make it past the 12.

It is hard to get past Matt Breitzke, who I look at like a big teddy bear. He has such a nice demeanor about him. His presence is very inviting. Which might just get him the votes he needs. We will see. Michael Sarver, is another guy who I have my eye on. He has a charisma about him that just draws me to him every time . He is the kind of guy that is everybody's friend. I think that he has a great chance of advancing further, not only as he is a good singer, but the ladies will favor him. He seems like the guy all the girls want to date. Who knows if he is taken or not. Who cares! I can't wait to see how far he makes it. Tatiana Nicole Del Toro was a mess, and although it was good for TV I am glad that she is gone. Sorry Tatiana. I think you would be great on a soap opera!

Keep your TVs' tuned this next week for a 3 day marathon to the top 12. This week will be saying a lot about what will be happening in this competition.